Zucchini Red Lentil Salad

During vegetable garden season I try and use things I grow to make up most of our meals. Today we had some friends for lunch. Since I don’t grow protein I added Salmon to the menu. I also don’t have any melons growing yet so I had to supplement with a store bought watermelon, but every other dish was full of the bounty from the garden.

We had sumac rolls which were filled of herbs from the garden. Watermelon salad with mint, lime and salt was yummy. The best dish was a zucchini red lentil salad. It was easy and could be an entire meal as the lentils are full of protein.

2 medium zucchini cut into 1/4 inch rounds

1 cup of red lentils

1/4 cup of goat cheese

Three handfuls of arugula

Twenty basil leaves, chopped

Olive oil

Lemon juice

Shallot vinaigrette

1 shallot minced

Juice of a lemon

3 T. champagne vinegar

1/3 cup of olive oil

1 t. Sugar

1/2 t. Salt

Black pepper

Heat fry pan to medium hot, coat bottom with olive oil. Salt and pepper zucchini rounds and place in single layer of fry pan. Cook until light brown on one side and and flip and cook the other side.

Place Red lentils in Sauce pan and cover with water. Bring pot to boil and cook for two minutes once boiling. Drain the lentils. Add zucchini and lentils to bowl and squirt a little lemon and dash of olive oil on them and chill.

Make vinaigrette by mixing everything together in a jar and shake vigorously.

When ready to serve, crumble goat cheese in the bowl with the veggies and add the arugula and basil. Add vinaigrette a little at a time so as not to over power the salad. You won’t use all the vinaigrette. Toss and enjoy.


Out of Practice

It has been a long time since I had to cook for two meals for guests. Let’s be honest, it has been a long time since we have had guests. This morning I had to go do some filming and it took longer than I had anticipated. I got home and had some lunch then got to work cooking.

Our friends Jan and Rex started moving in their new house, but it is hardly ready to be slept in so they are with us. I told them to come back for dinner tonight after what I knew was going to be a long day. Since they are still sleeping here, dinner at home seemed like the way to go.

Now that my garden is producing I try my best to use things I grow in as many dishes as I can. I made a saffron chicken and rice dish that had nothing from the garden so I cut a bunch of lettuce for a salad to be my garden component.

Tomorrow we are having an old friend and her new Beau for lunch. Russ bought a new cookbook, Falistin, because he saw an herb filled bun recipe he wanted me to make. Talk about complicated. Today I made the dough, which is currently rising in the fridge, as suggested. I made the onion, sumac, oregano and thyme filling using herbs from my garden and the parsley, chili oil, also from the garden. Tomorrow I will roll out the Dough, fill it, proof it, bake it and dress it with the herb oil. After all that it better be spectacular.

I prepped zucchini and red lentil for a salad that will include goat cheese and arugula. I also made the shallot dressing for that. And I prepped the salmon I will cook tomorrow. The only thing I did not do was cut the watermelon and mint. Mint gets fussy if cut too early.

After I finished cooking I cleaned the kitchen and mopped the floor and I was exhausted. I really had not cooked that much. I was only standing in the kitchen about five hours, but I was way out of practice. I had to go lie down on my bed and rest.

Certainly my cooking muscle will come back as well as my planning ahead gene. I must have gone to the garden no less than six times with sheers in hand looking to gather ingredients I needed. Pre-pandemic I would have gathered everything I needed all at once and been ready to hustle out multiple dishes one after the other. I felt like a total amateur in the kitchen today.

At least dinner tasted good. It just should not have taken so long to make. I guess I was just out of practice.


All is Right In the World

After what I call the eleven year Bobby Ewing shower, Our friends Jan and Rex are back to being Durham Residents after a jaunt in Texas. Jan was one of my first and best Durham friends and when she told me that she was moving to Texas over a Mah Jongg game eleven years ago I said, “That is only temporary, right?”

I thought they would be gone five years. Jan did come and stay with us regularly and once and a while Rex would come too, but almost eleven was getting to be just too long. Thankfully they closed on a house in Durham today and all is right in the world.

They are spending their first night back in Durham with us since they don’t have their furniture yet. We went to Nana Steak to celebrate and Jan did mention she was happy to live in the same town as her favorite designated driver.

So the way I see it, we are fully vaccinated, we can start Mah Jongg back up regularly and it will be like Jan never left. Throw back that shower curtain, Pam Ewing, Bobby never really died, he was just in the shower. It was all a dream.


Welcome to the Neighborhood

Wonder what’s moving in between Only Burger and Tutti Frutti? The building gives away nothing, but soon enough the sign will be put up and then all of Durham will know that Sage & Swift Catering is now a neighbor to Hope Valley.

I had lunch today with the dear Amy Tournquist and learned the exciting plans she has for her new space. Getting dinners to go will be so much more convenient now that she is around the corner. We talked about in addition to her regular yummy offerings that she might do healthy options in the dinner-to-go category. She already makes good for you taste great, so it will be nice to have guilt-free along with the work-free dinner. Of course you can still get her award winning mac and cheese for the kids.

The big news is going to be her once a month wine nights with small plate offerings once the front of the house gets finished. She is not going back to having a full time restaurant like Watts Grocery. I miss being able to have an Amy Crab Cake, so this will be a way to get my fix.

For now, I would just like to welcome Amy and Jeremy to this side of town. I look forward to seeing the big ampersand in the Sage & Swift every time I go to the post office. It’s nice to have a caterer back in that space, especially since it’s Amy.


The Zucchini is Coming

There is a point when growing zucchini when you can hardly keep up eating it as the plants produce so much at once. So far we have had about four squash, spread out over two weeks. I made Zucchini bread to stock Russ up with his favorite snack. Today I picked four nice fruits and saw more coming tomorrow and the next day.

Wanting to do something different with these zucchini I made a Palestinian dish of zucchini and yoghurt. The squash were so perfect with no seeds at all, they were perfect for this recipe.

1 large onion chopped

4 zucchini chopped into 1/2 dice

2 T. Olive oil

1 cup of Greek yogurt

4 cloves of garlic, minced

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

1/2 t. Sumac (or lemon zest)

Salt and course ground black pepper

4 T. Fresh mint, Chiffonade

Heat oil in fry pan on medium heat and add onions. Cook, Stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes until wilted, but not browned.

Add zucchini and Cook for 15 minutes until soft.

Add salt and peppers. Remove from heat and let cool.

Add everything else to cooled mixture and stir. Serve at room temp or cold with pita bread or as a side dish. We added lamb meat balls and tomatoes to a mezze plate.


Strange Day Alone

I have grown very accustomed to having Russ working at home. It has been a pleasant fifteen months of getting to see him in the middle of the day. That changed today as he flew to Washington before I woke up, for a meeting, like the old days.

I was already planning on driving up to the farm to pick up the ten tables I borrowed from friends to use for the sale and to have lunch with my Dad. As I drove up rt. 86 I listened to a book for my book club.

I got to the farm and just as I pulled into the drive behind the little house my Dad called me and said his doctor’s appointments were taking too long and he couldn’t have lunch. So I spent the next hour and a half retrieving the tables from all over and packed them into the car. Back on the road home I was thankful for my book reader because I had not seen a real person all day.

I came home to the exciting job of cleaning the house since it had been neglected last week and we are having guests this weekend. As I scrubbed toilets, I continued listening to my book. Shay and I played outside together all while I listened.

I ate dinner of leftovers alone and listened to my book. It was a rare day where I did not see another person, despite being out. Thank goodness for audible. Russ should be home before I go to bed. I am not sure I am going to like him going back to the office. It’s very quiet around here without him.


The Sole Carter Farmer

Now that the farm has been sold I am the sole farmer left. Truth be told no one in my blood line has actually been a farmer since my great grandfather. The joke has been the farm is where executives go to play.

I am only a gardener, not a Farmer, but still my garden grows more food than the farm. The farm mostly grew hay because my father liked the hundreds and hundreds of acres of fields to be beautiful.

May 19

Two and a half weeks ago my tomatoes barely reached the first ring in their cages, except the one in the corner, which was planted a couple of week earlier. It had not reached it’s top ring.

Today

Today that corner tomato plant is about to reach the top of the gardens support and all the others are well outside their cages. Still not harvestable tomatoes, but many small green globes are growing on the plants.

May 19
Today

I have harvested zucchini and made Russ bread. I did a major basil harvest and made two quarts of pesto this morning. The lettuce and the arugula continue to feed us and the hot peppers are off the plants and in the fridge.

I see many small cucumbers as the vines grow up the strings I added so they had a place to go. The pole beans have surpassed the strings I gave them, but no beans yet.

As the sole farmer I am going to keep experimenting and learning how to grow better and more food. I am thankful I don’t have a bigger garden as this one is enough work.


Recovery Day Interrupted

I got home last night around 7:30. Carter made me dinner. I read my email and took a sleep aid so I would sleep hard. Not because I needed help falling asleep, but because I did not want to wake up at 5:45, which I have been doing for the last three weeks. The pill worked. I stayed asleep until 8:45 and felt sleepy all day.

Carter also slept a hard 13 hours, something she says she hasn’t done in years. For her it was the exhaustion of having been with so many people for two days. She is ready to go back to her working from home solo life in Boston.

As this was my appointed recovery day I watched CBS Sunday Morning and church and was generally lazy this morning. Russ went to his office to do his weekly chore of watering the plants when I got a call from him interrupting my recovery.

“I’m in the parking garage and the Smart car won’t start, can you bring the battery jumper?” I did. Didn’t work. The little 12 year old Smart had just driven up and back to the farm yesterday, but couldn’t make it two miles back from the office. Russ looked at the code that was appearing on the dash board and found the Internet called it the three bars of death. That code could be one of fifteen things wrong with the car. We called AAA and they took it away to the dealership. Russ loves his Smart because it is a convertible. We pray it is a fuse or something else minor on the list of the three bars of death.

So much for a total recovery day. Outside of helping Russ get home I have been fairly lazy. Some time with Carter as she is flying back to Boston before dawn tomorrow and that is the end of my weekend.

Tomorrow brings a new week and some needed productivity at home. No sleep aid for me tonight. It’s back to getting up early.


Keep Going

At 6 PM, with my car full of boxes of goodies I had to bring home for remote shoppers I drove down our farm lane collecting the signs I had put out for the Estate Sale. The one most people mentioned to me was the “Keep Going” because they had no idea our driveway was a literally a mile long and they were certain they must have missed the sale. But I had placed signs all along the driveway like traveling down I-95 and Pedro speaking to you as you go in search of South of the Border.

I threw each old sign in the back of my car and after getting the last big one at the intersection of the two main roads I turned around and drove back to the the dumpster by my Dad’s office barn. This estate sale was done.

We had a slow, but steady day today. It is funny what people buy and what they don’t buy. None of the Crystal of glasses sold. I guess that fifteen months of pandemic got people out of the habit of having parties and no one thought they needed eight, twelve or sixteen wine glasses.

But people went wild for tiny leather gloves of many bright colors I thought only my mother’s small hands could wear. We hardly sold a lamp, yet young people bought cassette tapes of artists I was surprised they had heard of. My mother’s art was the most popular item and that was no surprise. It seems like every volunteer also bought art.

It was a fun day because I had my dear friend Jan and Carter had her oldest friend Ellis and we made a good team selling and packing up items our customers purchased. My mother had it easy with the team we had.

We beat our goal number, and yet we still had lots left over. Carter had mentioned that if no one bought the big set of Wein a China with tiny rose buds that she would love to have it. In the end my mother gave it to her. I know that Carter will forever cherish her grandmother’s China and the happy memories of her childhood at the farm which it will hold.

One by one we packed our cars with our treasures. I was desperate to go home and sleep in my own bed as everyday my sleeping situation got a little worse due to people buying all the blankets and pillows. I was not last to leave as Carter wanted some alone time to say goodbye to the farm. It was not my last time there since I have to go back on Tuesday and pick up all the tables to return them to my garden club friends who kindly lent them to me.

As I drove off I thought of my sign “Keep Going”. It’s all we can do in life.


A Very Successful Day

We sold a lot of stuff today. Thanks to my mother’s cute friends who came and volunteered and my dear friends who came and worked and my wonderful Carter who took the day off work to help her Grandparents, we moved things out.

By ten in the morning we had hardly any rugs or antiques. The good stuff goes fast at Estate sales. The Utensils for a dollar were also popular, especially if it was a big good knife or new garlic press. Not surprisingly my mother’s art was a top draw. It made for a good day.

Still, even with a good day of selling we still have a lot of stuff left. Tomorrow we start discounting. In the morning most things are 30% except for full sets of China and some antiques. By the afternoon we will go to 50%.

So after a day of hard work Jan, Carter and I went out to dinner at a new to us place in Danville called Cotton as it is housed in a old Dan River Mill building. We ate outside and felt almost human after all the day’s hard work.

After dinner we took one last nostalgic drive through the farm. Carter got a little teary eyed. Hard to think of the place she has spent her whole life not being a place she can get away too. It will be time to explore new places and make new memories.

One more day of Estate Sale and then this hell will be over. But honestly, today was fun thanks to the people who came and helped. My Mom owes you all!


The Bittersweet

Today was the last day of prep for the sale. My friend Jan arrived from the mountains ready to work and boy did we need her. Although my mother and I, along with the army of helpers, have been diligently working away every time we turned around we found something else, a drawer of kitchen utensils, a closet full of linens, a cabinet filled will serving pieces. It seemed like we would never be done with all the prep work.

My mother, a life long collector, has been a trooper about parting with many treasures. It helps that she got to chose only the things she really loved to take to her new house, but the fact that they are still packed into boxes means she doesn’t feel comfortable in the new space yet.

By late afternoon we called it a day. I took Jan up to my Aunt Janie Leigh’s who lives next door in my Grand Parents old house. Jan is staying in their little guest house, the house where my great grandfather was born. She was getting settled after we had dumped a bunch of trash in the dumpster my father had hired.

I went back to my parent’s old house and cleaned up to go to dinner and as I was walking out the side porch I noticed a rouge bag of trash that need to go to the dumpster. I threw it in the back of my car and drove over to my office barn, when the dumpster is parked. After I tossed the bag in I looked out over one of the many ponds my father has built on the farm. It was the golden hour where the sun was just dipping to the tree line and the light glistened on the ripples of the water.

I have been so busy working, cleaning out and setting up I had not taken in the fact that these are the last few days on the farm for me and my family. My Aunt will still have her house at the front of the farm, but the back, with the rolling hills, gurgling creeks, and beautiful trees belongs to someone else.

I have sixty years of memories of this place. My grandmother driving my sister Margaret and I down to pumpkin creek in her turquoise Covair so we could play in the cool water on a hot summer day. Or the many farm parties I had with my Washington or Dickinson friends. I remember one farm party when Grace Farley was out eight. We had gone fishing and swimming and the kids put on plays for us. Grace turned to her Mother and asked, “Do you think Dana will invite us back for another farm party?” The answer was always, “of course.”

I so wish we had one more farm party.

One of my very favorite memories here is of Carter learning to ride her bike. With the long private paved road it was safe to take off her training wheels and run along side of her holding the seat. When I let go of the five year old Carter and she peddled up the lane all by herself I knew it was the beginning of her independence.

But things must change. The farm is too big for my aging parents to take care of. It is too much for us to take care of, even if won the lottery. So I lookout over the setting sun and am taking it in one last time. The farm will always be in my heart. So many happy memories, but like watching Carter ride away from me, they are bitter sweet. You want to hold on to the old, but you have to let go and move on to the next chapter.


Nature Takes Over Quickly

My mom has been a trooper cleaning out more closets and pricing things. Just when I think we have everything priced and merchandised we open another hidden closet and find more stuff to sell, like the Burberry suitcase!

My parents moved out of their farm about two weeks ago. So no one has slept at the big house since they left. Today I came up to stay for the next five days to get this sale over and done with.

My new second Mother Sandra came over to help again today. She brought us a homemade lunch & Dinner and she shopped a little for herself, but not until she had done some excellent work.

Sandra and her British oils

After a good hard days work everyone left and I am staying in the big house. After all this work setting it up I am guarding it all. Since we don’t have TV, or wifi I have been walking around the outside noticing how huge the trees and shrubs have gotten since no one is trimming anything. I encountered at least a dozen bunnies on my trip around the house. They were very surprised to see me.

Can you see the little house? It’s not the pump house with the white door.

Not as surprised as the two wood chucks who scurried past my mother when she opened the art barn door. Apparently the back door was open. Who knows how long those woodchucks had been squatting there.

The view from the side porch to the front yard, you used to be able to see the front yard

I have a feeling if the new owners don’t come to the farm soon after they take over, the house might be fully engulfed by hollies and bunnies. I know the wild turkeys have been camping out in the front and the deer are drinking out of the pond every morning. When humans leave, nature just takes over.

This poor little Japanese maple has been engulfed by boxwoods just this month

June 1 Means Summer Suppers

The Basil in my garden is huge already. Although my tomatoes won’t bear red fruit for another few weeks I still need to find ways to use the basil now. I could make pesto, but I was too busy today to take that on. So for supper tonight I used some Campari tomatoes from the store and added a huge amount of basil, really good balsamic vinegar, burrata and some homemade corn bread I cut into cubes and toasted in a cast iron pan. It had to be a cast iron pan, this is North Carolina after all. One bite was the taste of summer.

Basil is the easiest thing to grow. It can be done in a pot or in any old soil. Animals tend not to like it so you don’t have to fence it in. It will get bushier if you cut the main stem as it grows tall. There is nothing better to add to corn salad, tomato sandwiches, simple pasta or even in your morning eggs than fresh basil.

It’s not too late. You can plant basil until September as it will grow until the first frost, but why wait? All you suppers will taste like summer if you add home grown basil.


In Support of Naomi Osaka

Having the media report that Naomi Osaka did not do a press conference after her first win at the French Open and complain that they did not get their free interview is not exactly kosher. The Four Grand Slam Tournaments fined Osaka $15,000 for skipping the press conference after her first win and threatened to ban her from other Grand Slams if she did not participate in Press conferences because they say the press conferences are good for building the sport and required. The press conferences are good for the press and the tournaments to sell more advertising. It is not the responsibility of each athlete to build the sport. They do their job by playing a good game.

Osaka claimed that the press conferences are not good for her mental health, so rather than make the French Open a pissing match she cordially pulled out of the tournament to take care of her own mental health. Good for her. If she stayed in and kept skipping the press conferences that is all the tournament would be about, not tennis at all.

Tennis is a mental game. Why should players have to endure press conferences before the whole thing is over? And why should a winner have to endure them at all? Most players want the publicity, but if the press treats them badly why should a player be forced to face them? We watch tennis to see an athlete, not a spokesperson.

I think pulling the big bad bully card on the last day of Mental Health month was poor form for the Open organizers. If they want to promote tennis then don’t push your athletes around.

I don’t see golf making players have to face the press between each round of a big tournament. Now plenty will talk to the press, but it appears to be their choice. The press should have to cultivate interviews, not just be able to throw any old question at a player who in essence is trapped into being in front of them under duress.

Osaka is the highest paid female athlete in the world right now and number 2 in women’s tennis. Driving her out of the sport would be bad for tennis. Has tennis learned nothing from the women who started the Virginia Slims tournament to control their own situation? Players being treated badly makes them want to not play your tournaments at all and in today’s world it wouldn’t be hard for someone of Osaka’s caliber to pull together a few other women and create a new tournament with more modern and reasonable rules.

So you bully’s in the tennis world and you press who are whining you did not get your automatic conference which was handed to you on a golden platter, you don’t get to call all the shots. The athletes that actually makes the shots should have some say in who she talks to and when. Not having to face the press in the middle of a tournament, or ever, seems perfectly reasonable if that is what she needs to do.


Estate Sale Queen Holley B to the Rescue

I love having friends with all kinds of talents. Holley B is the queen of estate sales and she volunteered her expertise today to help pricing the sale items. She was a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm.

Pricing unusual things like Avon Collectible Bears was the kind of research challenge Holley was expert at. She also looked at some of my mother’s antiques like pewter and decoys and advised we take them to auction because they were too valuable to be left estate sale regulars.

Taken out of the sale, but if you are a decoy collector call me

We labeled bar ware, plates, rugs, sofa, cookware, scarves, purses, pillow, quilts, serving pieces, Christmas decorations, chairs, tables, and so many lamps. It was a sticker and tag palloza.

We are about 80% done with pricing thanks to the Amazing Holley B. I can’t thank you enough for all that she did, from driving up to the farm, to entertaining my mother and convincing her that pricing things right will make the sale successful. I love you Holley B!


One More Week

I can make it one more week until I am finished doing this estate sale. Even though there is just a shit load of stuff still to do. I can at least see the end in sight.

Despite the fact I have been the one unpacking all the boxes and setting up displays Russ was the real hero today. My parents are the BC generation as the Apple Customer Support staff call them. That means they lived most of their lives before computers, well almost before color TV, and that means they are completely unable to set up anything computer related. Hell, I too have trouble doing it, and so I consider myself the luckiest woman in the world to have married Russ Lange.

If Russ had known he was going to be the IT department for my parents for the rest of their lives he could have negotiated a big ass Dowry. Today he came to the rescue setting up all my parents Internet, wifi, Tv’s, computers, IPads, and Phones at their new house. It took him a better part of the day, which was the best use of his time.

I did not mind shlepping boxes and washing Crystal and rolling rugs, just so long as Russ was fixing everything computer related for my parents. I had one of my mother’s dear friends Sandra to help me. She has been a godsend setting up and being just a lot of fun to have around. Today she even brought a picnic of food and drinks.

After a hard eight hours Russ and I decided to take a break from other people and went into Danville to Our favorite Mexican Restaurant, el Vallarta. It was before six, but the place was hopping. They seated us at a big table with what the waiter said was, “the best view.” Based on this photo you can see what a fabulous place Danville is when this is the best view.

The table with the best view

Tonight I hope I can sleep when I know in the next room is a big table of my mother’s doll collection on a table. I am not one for dolls. Thankfully they are not the scary kind, but mor like the primitive. Please god, let someone come to this sale who wants dolls, China, or is setting up a bar because I have at least seven hundred glasses for sale.


Lunch Out

Shay was suspicious. First Russ changed out of his t-shirt and into a collared shirt. Then I came in from gardening and took a second shower and put on a dress. Shay nervously followed us around. She hadn’t seen us this cleaned-up in the middle of the day in months.

Russ asked me if I was ready to go. Shay ran to the garage door on the word go. We asked her if she needed to go out. We let her potty, but asked her to come back inside. She stood by the car and did not budge. So Russ and I had to go back inside the house and close the door, leaving her out alone.

The trick worked and she came inside thinking she must have been wrong about why we were clean and dressed. That’s when Russ and I made our get away, calling out, “Be good, we’ll be home soon.”

This was the first lunch out in Durham Russ and I have had together in 15 months. We went to the Durham Food hall, down by the farmer’s market because they just recently opened up for inside seating. There are a number of little stands in the Food Hall and we thought it would be nice to eat amongst other humans who were also dressed in regular, read non-athletic, clothes.

After ordering from four different stands, two for food and two for drinks we secured a two-top and had an adult conversation like we used to have many years ago. We saw our friend David who was out with his son so it was a real Durham day, where you can’t go out without seeing someone you know.

We were back home within the hour and Shay was no worse for the time alone, but she has stayed close by one or the other of us for the rest of the day. It is going to be a long haul to retrain her to be OK when we both are out.

As for us, lunch out was a treat, but as Russ says, it doesn’t really beat my cooking. I am making a watermelon, avocado, basil, mint and goat cheese salad with some crushed peanuts for dinner along with grilled salmon and homemade corn bread baked in a cast iron pan I got from my parents. Russ is right. Dinner home is still better, but seeing humans out having fun was exciting too, except for Shay.


A Scary Snake

Today was the first big day of setting up the estate sale at my parents. Thanks to the help of one of my friends and one of my Mom’s we got everything unpacked in the big house. The unpacking was all the stuff from the apartment in DC. We also sorted and organized a large number of sets of China. We still have many kitchen items to set out for display and pricing of everything.

The little house is still full of boxes we need to unpack and organize, but that is a job for Saturday. One of my mom’s friends came by and bought a good amount of stuff so before we even have the sale we made a sale.

I will post photos of everything when we get it set up. Think sofas, rugs, antique side tables, China, China, China, Crystal, housewares, lamps, linens. Basically everything you need to set up a nice house.

It was a more fun day than any of us expected. We had a lot of laughs, until the very scary snake. One person went to the basement and before they went in they were back reporting to us, “There is a very scary, dangerous black and white snake at the bottom of the basement steps before the door.”

Since snakes do not scare me I volunteered to go scare the snake away. I took two pot lids to clang together. I banged the lids loudly as I approached the basement steps. I looked down the step well, I saw the black and white supposed snake. I turned to the person who had reported the snake. “Is that scary bungee cord the snake?”

We got a big laugh out of that. I threw that scary bungee cord away. We don’t need to scare anyone else.


Double Birthday Celebrations

With the loss of birthday celebrations last year we are doing double parties this year. I think we are all so ready to be with friends everyone is thrilled to come to two events for each birthday person.

Tomorrow is my darling friend Christy’s birthday. So we could fit in as much merriment as possible we started yesterday. We had a breakfast birthday. I made my “how I met Colin Firth” Raspberry streusel nut muffins. I forget how good they are and they definitely are birthday worthy. Thanks to Kathi for hosting that lovely morning.

Today we went to the WaDu to have our celebratory birthday lunch on the terrace. Thankfully Christy’s birthday is not on a graduation week so we had the regular menu which meant Chopped salads were the popular lunch.

It is good to have wonderful young friends like Christy who deserve all the merriment we can come up with. Next up will be Mary Lloyd’s birthday. We most certainly will be on the double birthday party scheme in August. Don’t worry Lynn and Karen, Double birthdays in September too.

I hope we don’t have another pandemic, but I do like having two birthday parties. Wish Christy a happy day tomorrow, the revelry continues.


Coconut Rice and Kale

Wanting us highlight my home grown kale I made this coconut rice. It is a good side dish or main dish with the addition of a fried egg and some crushed peanuts.

1 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes

1 large sweet onion, chopped

2 T. Olive oil

2 cups of rice

1 can coconut milk

1 t. Knorr chicken soup powder

1 t. Turmeric

Zest and juice of 2 limes

10 big kale leaves, center stem removed and cut into ribbons

Sliced red chillies

Black pepper

In a big stock pot heat half the olive oil and add the coconut and toast for a minute, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Remove from pot and add the remaining oil and onions. Cook on medium high for three minutes, until translucent.

Add the rice and stir to coat with any oil and onions. Add the coconut milk and a can of water. Add the chicken broth powder, turmeric and a few turns of black pepper mill. Cover. Heat to boil and reduce to simmer. Cook for ten minutes covered. Add the kale to the top of the rice and cover and cook another ten minutes or until the liquid is gone.

Add the lime juice and zest and pre-cooked coconut. Serve with chillies on side.


Growing Summer Squash is a lot Like Life

Growing summer squash is not hard in the scheme of gardening. It gets big fast, like kids, yet you don’t get mature fruit right away. First you get blossoms. Big, beautiful, bright yellow flowers. Some are male and some are female. The male ones have a stamen which is long and pointy, the female has a cup like center. It takes both of those blossoms to make a squash.

Actually it takes the pollen from the make to reach the female and that takes, bees, just the right breeze or a tiny paint brush and an interested human. The blossoms are sexy and inciting, especially to a cook who wants to stuff them with goat cheese, fry them and serve them on a puddle of roasted red pepper sauce.

True success in squash requires patience and discipline to leave the blossoms to grow a vegetable. Then the trick is to watch it closely so you pick it when it is not to small, but not too big. You never know if you get it right, but you enjoy it nonetheless.

So getting the balance of enjoying a few blossoms and leaving the other to grow fruit is the key. The trick is to take the Male blossoms to stuff and just brush their pollen on the female blossoms, because only the female actually can grow a vegetable. Just like life.


Hotel Dogs

For the first time in a year both Russ and I were away from Shay for 48 hours. We could have taken her to South Carolina since were stayed in a dog friendly Hotel. My cousin Mary had her three King Charles Cavaliers with her, but they are seasoned hotel dogs.

Shay is not a dog who likes to be left alone in a hotel room. We have tried it. As soon as we leave the room she howls. She is not really much of a howler at home, but in a strange place she lets us and everyone in a two block radius know that she is unhappy.

Of course this is unacceptable. I am very interested how people who travel with their dogs get them to be quiet when you leave the hotel room?

It does not seem like it is something we could practice. If we put her in a strange room and left the room and stood in the hall waiting to see if she stops crying we might be there for a few hours. If we come right back and open the door she will think that the howling worked to get us back. We could rent out three floors of a hotel to try and do a training session that would not disturb other guests, but we don’t have that kind of money to spend to train our dog.

I am certain that other dogs love their humans as much as Shay loves us, but why don’t they cry when left alone. I don’t think Shay has a history of being abandoned so she should have no deep seated fears about being alone, but the pandemic has not helped with us all being together every minute.

At ten years old we are not going to train an old dog new tricks, but I would like to train myself for future dogs. Please give me advice. I would love to be one of those people who could travel with their dog.


Write Down Your Last Wishes

Today was the funeral for Flo we came to Columbia to attend. Before the actual event we had a morning of story telling, walking and general merriment. When the hour rolled around to go to the cemetery for the graveside service we all cleaned up good to say our last good bye’s to Flo.

Thankfully the weather was not as hot as predicted and they were a lovely breeze under the big tree at the Heyward plot. A bag piper played Amazing Grace as the friends and family who gathered there looked on.

Flo had written down her wishes for her service and true to Flo’s selfless ways she only wanted a short graveside service. Her nephew gave a sweet and funny eulogy telling stories that perfectly illustrated Flo’s generosity. It was the quickest service I have ever been to for someone who was so loved. There was no wailing or nashing of teeth, just to the point.

Afterwards our newest adopted family members, Walker and Sally tried to lead us to the reception at Missy and Davis’ house after the service since they are locals. We had a big tour of all of Columbia only to arrive at the sight of Missy and Davis’ old house. Thankfully Russ had the address of the new house so we re-toured Columbia ending up on the other side of town at their new house.

More loving on family ensured, making sure Mary and Haidee felt the love we had for them at the loss of their mother. Mary and Haidee did a great southern job making sure we all were taken care of, having many meals and plenty of drinks at every turn.

We have one last little gathering tonight, where we will rehash all the stories and plan for our next reunion. Flo would have loved what a fun weekend it was, and how easy going everything was, except for the limo flat tire and the grandchild throwing up. But hey, it was perfectly imperfect and the guests all had a fabulous time.

I know it’s time to write down what we want as our last wishes just because it makes it so much easier on the ones left behind when planning the service. No one can argue if you say, “We are just following the orders she left for how she wanted it.”


Best Weekend of The Year

Fourteen months of no social interactions is the excuse why I am writing this blog at 12:30 in the morning. Technically this is yesterday’s blog, but I was having way to much fun to stop and write my blog. See, I am at the highlight of my pandemic year, the memorial service for my cousin Flo. I have never been so excited to go to a memorial or funeral before in my life and so far it has lived up to my expectations.

My sister Janet drove down to my house today and she, Russ and I drove to a Columbia, SC together. Normally visiting Columbia would not be the place I was dying to go to, but thanks to dying I am here with many of my favorite relatives and none of my least favorites.

My cousin Mary is a fabulous planner and when it was eminent that her mother was going to be off to join her father in heaven she started figuring out how best to celebrate her.

Tonight we had cocktails on the terrace where it became apparent that my generation was now the old guard and was in charge. For many years we had a large contingent of our parents and grand parents’ generation around, calling the shots and planning the parties, but sadly there are no grand parents and fewer and fewer parents.

After cocktails we had a lovely dinner in a private room and the Michie cousins got to catch up after what feels likes many years being apart. From dinner we moved to a room at the bar we commandeered and the story telling, laughing and hugging continued. For those Michies who are not here we need to let you know we are planning a reunion that is not a funeral for February of 2022 in Washington, DC.

I know this was a plan that was hatched in a bar, late at night, but we need to follow through on this one and we are missing lots of loved ones. We should not have to have someone die to spend time together.

There is nothing as wonderful as family who has known you all your life and still loves you just the same. Flo was a great cousin, whom I am thrilled to celebrate, but mostly I am glad to be here for her daughters, Mary and Haidee, whom I adore like sisters. Thanks to them for hosting the most fun weekend of my pandemic.


Happy Big Birthday Shay

I don’t know how it happened, but our baby Shay Shay turned 10 today. She has been the favorite family member from the day she came into our world.

As her present to Russ she did not wake him up last night and instead snuggled up with me. She got to come outside and play in the garden with me this morning then she went back to supervising Russ at work.

This afternoon she got to open her presents, two new stuffed toys, a donut and frog that spelled out ten. She took right to the donut and loved jumping to catch it when Russ threw it to her. She may be ten, but she is still agile.

Russ bought her steak for dinner and she knew it was a special day. We hope we have another ten great years with Shay Shay. When Russ and I talk about the possibility of getting another dog we both agree that Shay would not be happy about it, so we continue to pamper her as she demands. But today is her birthday so spoiling is required.


Day 999 of Moving my Parents

Today was the official moving day for my parents. One of the best things about moving two miles down the road is it is a short trip. One of the worst things is there is no sense of urgency to get everything into a truck and be done with it.

The moving crew we used last week came back to take what was supposed to be the last of the furniture so that my parents actually have to live in the new house. Since they are reducing their livable space by 75% they just can’t take everything. So it is hard to decide do I want this chest of drawers or that chest of drawers? Pick just one.

My wonderful, fabulous sister Janet brought three of her best employees who helped with packing and had a truck too. They moved all my mother’s art as well as brought five big pieces of furniture to my house.

My favorite mover was a old guy named Shad who really appreciated art and loved my mom’s work. He wanted a photo with her so he could show his friends he knew a famous artist. He also made friends with my Dad and is going to come fishing at my Dad’s pond.

Living in the new house is going to be painful for a while. The stove is not working because they don’t have the right vent. There are no window treatments. My father’s bed frame is missing the slats so the mattress is not in it. The kitchen cabinets are missing drawers and shelves so there’s is no putting away kitchen stuff. It’s going to be hell for a while.

I estimate we are only about half way through this ordeal. There is all the unpacking to be done. Still lots of stuff at the old house to be moved and all the prep work for the estate sale and holding the estate sale. Then the donating what does not sell and the final clean up. At least 999 more days to go. For tonight I am taking a lot of Advil PM and trying to not think about moving.


God Awful Low Fiber Diet

Someone I know has to have a colonoscopy next week and they need to eat a low fiber diet. When I was asked for ideas for low fiber foods I immediately went back to my childhood in the 60’s. White bread bologna sandwiches, fettuccine Alfredo, eggs Benedict, nothing healthy. Thinking about low fiber foods practically makes my brain want to blow up.

Trying to come up with vegetable centric low fiber meals is almost impossible. Forget fruits, unless it is canned. Yeah, I guess bananas are OK. So maybe a creamy peanut butter and banana sandwich, but that is just another sandwich.

For a person who does not eat meat you have chicken and fish, but still what to go with it? For my friends over 50 what did you eat when you had your low fiber prep week? I’m not sure I am going to be much help to this person.


Happy Birthday to my Dad

Eighty-three we thought he’d never see based on the stories he told us when we were kids. Happy birthday to my dad who has broken all records as far a big living is concerned.

Now he and my mom are about to embark on what I calculate is their 18th house move, if you count some work places my Mom never went to, in their marriage.

Getting ready for a big downsize move is not the best way to spend your birthday, but hell, no one thought my Dad would make it to 83, especially him.

When I was a child he used to start many life lessons with the phrase, “I have to tell you this before I die.” Well now neither of us can remember what those stories were, but he did a great job giving me life’s instructions and getting me to 60.

For now I pray that for his birthday the Internet installers show up on time at his new house. At 83 there is just not a lot you need. Happy birthday Dad.


Nature Is Miraculous

Squash April 16

My garden is growing! My squash are a great example. In exactly one month they went from three inch saplings to huge eighteen inch bushes with flowers and squash just days away from harvest size.

Same squash May 16

None of this is thanks to me, it is all Mother Nature. I helped by making organic compost, which I use as the mulch on the plants. I also make sure everything gets watered if we don’t have rain. My biggest help is I go out and shake the plants everyday to scare away the aphids.

I am worried that the aphids might be getting ahead of me and hurt the plants. I tried to attract lady bugs, but I don’t think it is warm enough for them. So today I planted more marigolds and catnip as they supposedly repel aphids.

My pole beans have gone from seed to ten inch plants, but a few of those plants have a couple of curling leaves and I am yet able to diagnose the issue.

Does anyone know what wrong with this plant?

Russ and I have been eating from the garden everyday, enjoying Kale, spinach, lettuce, arugula, cilantro, basil and chives. I am ready for the peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes to start growing fruit, but I know it will be another month before we can reap that bounty.

If you have a child or a grandchild please grow some food with them. It is the best education to understand where food comes from. Nothing tastes better than a vegetable you grow yourself.


Fig Miracle?

About ten years ago I bought a stick potted in a gallon of dirt at the farmers market. The farmer told me it was a fig tree and instructed me how to plant it. Before I walked off he said, it may take a couple of years to get figs.

Following his instructions I planted the ball of dirt with the stick in the garden at the end of driveway. It grew, and grew and the first year I had a little bush of a fig tree with beautiful big green hand shaped leaves. No figs. Winter came and the leaves fell off leaving a scraggle of sticks.

The next year the sticks bore more beautiful leaves and stretched further out towards the sun. No figs, but it was only year two.

Year three same deal, but now the fig bush was getting more like a fig tree and I was hopeful. No figs. Russ mentioned that I might need a mate for my tree, but how would I find the right mate?

This yearly watch for figs became futile year after year and I often fought with the ever expanding tree as it expanded out into the driveway. Last fall, tired of the inaptly named fig tree I cut practically all its branch’s off.

This spring they all came back, but surprisingly in an effort to beg me not to be so harsh on it it brought a few figs on it’s upper branches. They are big green figs right now. Russ and I squeezed one today to see if they are close to harvest and they are not. I have no idea why it took this tree ten years to produce and until something ripens I am not sure if the production is edible, but I will give this tree a chance this year. If the figs are good I’m going to cut the branches back again in the fall and hope she rewards me with figs again.

If that farmer who sold me the stick had told me it would take ten years to produce I would not have paid a cent for that stick. Ten years is just too big a gamble.


A Really Good Friend

In Jeopardy fashion, the answer is Jeanne Behr. “What is the definition of a truly good friend.” Today Jeanne volunteered to go with me up to the farm to help move my mother’s clothes from the old house to the new house. There is a special place for a friend like Jeanne. Perhaps I can put a good word for her in the Four Seasons Heaven where my sister Janet will eventually end up.

When I say moving my mother’s clothes I am simplifying the actual job by a lot. It was more like a clothing evaluation, negotiation, packing, moving and hanging job. My mother loves clothes and consequently likes to hold on to all the clothes she has ever had, regardless of style, or condition.

Every once in a while we would nudge my mother to donate when she was wavering. Like when I opened the drawer full of white cotton sweaters. Granted there were chunky knits, cable knits, zipper knits, cardigans, crew necks, v necks, in multiples of each category. Convincing my mother that she did not need 20 white cotton sweaters was important and after trying on a few which were at least six inches too short she gladly said we could give them away. We found quite a few sweaters that would be perfect for teddy bears they were so small.

Having Jeanne with me made helping my mother so much more pleasant. We found the best way to complete this job was for my mother to sit in a chair and we would hold every item up and she would say, “Take, donate or try on to determine take or donate.”

Happily my mother had no trouble finally giving away a whale themed turtle neck that had been my sister Margaret’s in 1978. That means this shirt had been moved from Wilton to London, back to Wilton, to one house in Washington, DC, then a second, to Pawleys Island then to the farm and never once did my mother wear it. If you are interested in it you can find it at Pennies for Change in Durham where Jeanne and I dropped five boxes this afternoon. Also donated were some vintage Lord and Taylor pantyhose still in the packages.

It was a satisfying day of cleaning out, made all the more fun by having Jeanne there. I am forever grateful to have such a generous friend.

We will be having the Estate Sale at the Farm on June 4 & 5. There will be at least six sofas, and many chests of drawers, multiple full sets of China, designer pocket books, rugs, kitchen ware and more. Sorry no whale turtlenecks will be available at the sale. Let me know if you want directions.


No Masks For THE FULLY VACCINATED

In the earliest days of the pandemic my friend Michelle was the first person to ask me if I could sew her a mask. She was grocery shopping for an elderly couple and thought it was a good idea to wear a mask way before anyone official told us too. So I made her one, then I made some for us, and my family and more friends. I made over three hundred masks.

Masks worked. Not only did we not get Covid, apparently it kept most people from getting the flu this year. A normal year sees 130,000 deaths from the flu, this past year we had 2,304. I like the mask. We also had far fewer colds, thanks to the mask and washing our hands more.

Now the word has gone out that if you are FULLY VACCINATED you don’t need to wear the mask except on public transport and in some spaces where lots of people are close together. I am not giving up my mask so fast.

When cold and flu season comes around I might be putting that mask back on. I also like the way the mask hides any number of chins I might have on any given day.

I am certain that those people who have not been vaccinated will also stop wearing their mask, if they wore one in the first place. The President said it was the honor system to go without a mask if you were vaccinated.

Sadly those people who are not getting a vaccine and will not wear a mask may still get Covid and some will die. Or some will get Covid and never get over it, feeling like hell for six months or more. Only then it will be too late to change their minds and say they wish they had gotten the vaccine.

I am not sure how many people I know who are anti-Vaxers. No one has told me they won’t take the vaccine because if they did I would really have to consider if I wanted any relationship with them whatsoever. Why risk dying? The vaccine is much safer than getting Covid. If you haven’t gotten your vaccine keep wearing your mask, at least you might also not get the flu.


Happy Graduation Sweet Ashley

This spring many of Carter’s lifelong friends are graduating from College. Carter is in a five year program and is graduating early in December, which is great, but off cycle. I have had a great time seeing the graduation photos of her friends, who I adore so much, with more to go in the next few weeks.

How did four years fly by? I feel like I was just filming these kids in Pre-k telling me what they wanted to be when they grew up. Now they are on their way.

Today I took Ashley to lunch to celebrate her graduation and she wanted to celebrate my milestone birthday. I was lucky to find a date between all her graduation trip travels to see her before she is off to NYC and a job there. I was so happy that she asked me to visit her in New York. Since she is one of my bonus daughters I definitely will be doing that. I am her DMA after all. DMA is what she has called me for the last eight years as short for the nickname Dana Ma.

Now it is time for these young friends to call me Dana and not Mrs. Lange. They are adults. The person it is going to be the hardest to get to call me Dana is Ellis. She staunchly calls me Mrs. Lange as a sign of respect, but now it just makes me feel old. I may have to come up with a grandmother like name she can call me just as long as she stops calling me Mrs. Lange.

Congratulations to all the graduates. When I see you call me Dana! You have earned that little change.


Out of Gas?

My friend J took me to lunch today to celebrate my birthday. She picked me up at home so we could have more time together in the car. We had a fabulous lunch. The pandemic had kept us apart far to long. We made plans to do more things together, fast.

We got back in her car, which is fairly new to her and as I was asking her if she liked it she noticed that the gas meter said she had 20 miles worth of gas left. “Oh My, my old car used to tell me in a big warning sign when my gas was getting low.”

I suggested we should stop and get gas on the way home, just in case. Well, it was a good thing, because apparently the Colonial Pipe Line shut down, by the Darkside hackers has hit NC hard. The line at our favorite Family Fare filling station was around the block and there was only one pump with any gas.

Only 14 cars in front of us

We sat in the line a long time and her gas meter went from 20 gallons left to 10 gallons. Thankfully two cars in front of us got tired of waiting and pulled out of line. We watched as our line slowly inched towards the one good pump. One young man in a black mustang convertible tried to jump the line, but after some words from other pulled his car out of line.

The car in front of us was unable to get gas for some reason. Turned out the card reader stopped working and J had to go in the store to pay. Only ten dollars worth allowed. That was 2.77 gallons of gas. It sent the meter up to 80 miles worth of gas, which quickly ticked back to 70 in less than a mile of driving.

I blame the Russians for offering a safe harbor for the Darkside. The pandemic is bad enough, but now a gas crisis, where there really shouldn’t be one is just an insult we don’t need. Please conserve your gas if you can. It will take a while to resupply once the Colonial is back online.

Thankfully I have gas in four cars, not that I am going anywhere. J let me know that on her way home she saw other gas stations out of gas. You are probably out of luck if you need it today or tomorrow.


Moving Is Shit

I saw a pretty wise saying the other day. “At my age I don’t get down on the floor without a plan about how to get back up.” My mother obviously never heard this saying. After a long day I found her lying of the floor of her new bedroom with no furniture except for one chair. She said she just needed a rest.

Today was an ongoing move day for my parents from their farm to their new house. My father is not really doing any moving so I am called in for what I thought was a supervisor role, but it turned I turned into a low level packer.

Thankfully Miss Daisy came with the movers today to pack with me. I was thankful for her every minute as well as the Richard, the Danville firefighter and his amazing team of movers.

After packing up the never ending sea of China I went over to my parents new house to look at where things were going in the kitchen. I should have done the inventory of available space before I let my mother dictate how many thousands of plates she wanted to keep. There is no way she has the space for half of what she wants.

To top it off the cabinets are not outfitted with any shelves or pull out drawers. This has to be fixed before much can be put away.

Downsizing is difficult at best. I can hardly wait for this month to be over. I am sore, dirty and exhausted already and don’t anticipate anything getting any better. I also would like my mom to have a bed to lie down on because she does not plan ahead when she lies down on the floor.


My Kind of Mother’s Day

Last weekend I had the treat of having Carter home, so we celebrated mother’s day then. Tomorrow ai will go to the farm to supervise the first of many parts of moving my parents to their new house. That is my Mother’s Day present for my mother, along with a couple of goodies.

So today I got to do just what I wanted to do. The first was working in the garden. There is not much “work” right now as most everything is planted and I am just waiting for things to grow. I did do some harvesting today. My friend Karen gave me a swarm of heirloom quality garden implements for my birthday.

Today I used the ceramic pruners to harvest spinach. I cooked it for dinner and Russ exclaimed it was so much better than store bought spinach.

After the garden I got spent time reading. I had a long call with Carter, then Russ and I took Shay on a hike in Duke forest. It was a glorious day here, worthy of a celebration day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mother’s out there. Condolences to those for whom this is your first Mother’s Day without your mother. And to those whose mother’s have been gone a while, I am certain it never gets easier, but I hope your happy memories of your mother hold you tight through this day and all your days.


Dickinson Farm

For my birthday my friend Sally, who went to Dickinson with me, sent me a box of items from the Dickinson College Farm. This farm did not exist when we went to Dickinson. It came about as part of the sustainability program the college undertook a few years back.

Of course being a college the farm is used for research, but it also produces food for the dining hall and sells it too. Oh, how I wish we had the college farm when I was in school. I gladly would have given up Calculus for farming. I have never used calculus one day in my adult life, but I could have used farming knowledge everyday.

One of the things Sally sent was some stone ground corn meal from purple and yellow corn. I made a test batch of simple corn muffins so I could get a feel for what the corn meal was like before I dudded it up in another recipe.

It had a very strong and fresh corn meal flavor. Nothing like a jiffy mix of corn meal. But the freshness of the corn meal made a very light muffin.

I did not try the Strawberry jam with it yet, but am looking forward to tasting Dickinson’s version. I wonder if they offer jam making and canning as college credit courses or just for fun.

As I think about all the classes I took in college that were interesting, but not applicable to my regular life I wish that they had offered a real life interdisciplinary class of personal finance, basic plumbing and electrical work, tax preparation, and food safety. I am certain there were no professors who could teach this one class, but lots of college staff, like building and grounds, dinning hall and the business office people who could have taught us.

Of course I learned to learn at college so I have taught myself most of these skills, but it would have been faster if someone who really knew what they were doing had taught me.

For now I am going to use my experimentation skills on this corn meal. Thanks Sal, for surprising me with these Dickinson goodies.


Have You Fallen?

His answer is always the same. “I live on a farm. I walk outside on uneven ground. I fall on the grass. I am not hurt.” They put the bracelet on nonetheless. He just hates the overt sign of being called old that the bracelet screams.

When I go to the doctor’s office with my Dad I am always prepared for him to be mad about the first question they ask him. “Have you fallen in the last three months?” I know that the lawyers want them to ask so they can put a bright pink bracelet with the words “fall risk” on him before he takes another step. It is not an unreasonable question to ask an octogenarian.

Now that I am sixty I am wondering if they are going to ask me this question. Today, after much rain I put on my new hunter gardening shoes that Russ and Carter gave me for my birthday. I was going out back to my new moss garden (my early Mother’s Day present) to inspect where the bunnies, I presume, are already nibbling. Since major chunks of moss have been moved around I decide I need to fence this moss in until it gets a good hold of the earth.

I went back to the garage to gather random bits of wire fence I have left from building my garden. I rounded the corner, arms full of fence and slipped on the dirty, wet bricks and fell on my butt. Thankfully the extra padding I carry everywhere with me cushioned the blow and I got up unhurt and went about wrapping the moss garden in an unattractive jumble of wire. Fighting with bunnies is one of my specialties.

Next time I go to the Doctor, hopefully months from now, if they ask me if I have fallen I seriously doubt if I will remember this slick brick induced fall. It makes me wonder about the senior-seniors they ask. Unless you badly injure yourself are you likely to remember a small tumble? Seems to me that no one should legally depend on anyone over 50 to recall everything that happened to them in the last three months. For good measure just put the bright pink fall risk bracelet on everyone over 30, but just don’t print the big words “fall risk.” The medical staff should just know by the color what it means.


How to Feel Six Instead of Sixty

Carter loves bartending. I wonder whose genes that came from? In honor of my birth year she made a special drink for my birthday dinner for others to enjoy. It was a classic whiskey sour. Apparently it was the “it” drink of 1961. It must have been popular for years afterwards because it was often served at parties at my childhood house.

Being the sixties it was made with a “sour packet” that came in a box of six from the liquor store. Just add bourbon. I think the brand was Holland house. My dad used to make us “sours” by adding water and ice to the contents of the packet and run it in the blender. If we were lucky we got a cherry in it. Sure, start kids off enjoying cocktails early.

So Carter made people who wanted a drink the knob creek version of the whiskey sour. For me I had the ginger beer version which was fantastic. It used the Trader Joe’s triple ginger, ginger beer and the sour mix of fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, some cherry juice and a maraschino Cherry.

It brought me back to being a kid getting a kid cocktail. This was a great way to not feel 60, but perhaps six again. Maybe in my very old age I will take up drinking again. Until then I’ll take this mock-tail version anyday.


The Loss of One Of My Favorites

Sadly my cousin Mary texted me this morning to let me know that her mother Flo had passed away earlier today. Although Flo was technically a cousin to me she was much more like an Aunt and a favorite Aunt at that. She had not been well for the last few years so her passing is a blessing and we are certain she is in heaven with her husband Johnnie, another favorite who left this earth much too early over twenty years ago.

Johnnie was my father’s closest first cousin, more like a brother. Johnnie’s mother Haidee was an older sister to my grandmother Margaret. They were two of six sisters in a crazy family of Michies from Charlottesville. Johnnie’s parents had a house in Pawleys Island and my whole childhood we spent our summer vacations on Pawleys with them and my dad’s only brother Wilson’s family.

There would be three generations spending all day everyday on the beach and Flo was a calming presence amongst those with Michie blood. We think she was the first one who married into the family who named it a support group for the in-laws to Michies.

One of my earliest memories of Flo was from the summer when I was eleven years old. I was the oldest cousin of the Pawleys crew so I often hung with the adults and listened in on the conversations. My mother had a serious kidney disease and after our vacation she was going home to have her kidney removed. This was a big deal in 1972 and required a long stay in the hospital.

I remember sitting on the beach and hearing my parents talk about this operation and them not knowing what they were going to do with me and my two younger sisters. This was the first I even heard of my mother’s illness as no one told children anything back then. My grandmother said she could take my baby sister Janet, but not me and my seven year old sister Margaret because that would be too much. Flo immediately spoke up and said that Margaret

and I could come and stay with them at their little house in Columbia, SC.

I was so thankful that someone was willing to take us and that it was Flo. As Flo and Johnnie only had my cousin Mary at that time it was a big deal to add two more children, but she made sure we had lots of fun and kept our minds off my mother’s situation. The highlight of that stay was when Flo took me, Mary and Margaret to be on the Mr. Knozit TV show, a local kids show. I was the only kid onthe show that day who knew the answer to the question, “what are the call letters of the TV station?” That got me an extra Icee coupon which Flo happily helped me redeem at a local store.

I am forever grateful that Flo was the kind, understanding calm person she was. The loss of her is hitting me hard as I realize that there are fewer and fewer of her generation in our family.

I send my love and hugs to my Cousins Mary and her sister Haidee. Thankfully we are all vaccinated now so we will get to go to the memorial service. Flo deserves us to celebrate her life. She certainly did a lot for mine.


The Birthday that Never Ended

It’s a good thing I only turn 60 once because you are going to be sick about reading about it. Yesterday I wrote my blog around five in the afternoon. I thought that all the birthday celebrations were concluded and I was exhausted from them all.

Then my dear friend and birthday twin, Tricia called. We were born on the same day in the same year and have been friends for 42 years. I had made a little video for her 60th that her sister Cathy put together in a movie. She told me all about her birthday movie and asked me how I liked mine. I told her I didn’t get a movie, but said my family needed to save something for my 70th.

After a quiet dinner with Carter and Russ they told me it was finally time for them to give me my presents from them. Russ leans hard on Carter for both present ideas and logistics in all things gift giving. She went above and beyond this year. Having her home was the best present I could have gotten, but I had no idea about the last big present they were giving me… A MOVIE from my friends!

Thanks to Carter’s Godmother, Suzanne, I had a funny, touching, heartfelt movie of a wide range of friends from all aspects of my life. Suzanne, as a TV producer in her last life, had strict rules about how many people, and made sure that every decade was represented starting in my teens.

I want to shout out to all you dear friends who went to the trouble to record such sweet things about me. I cried, I laughed, I howled and it made me miss each one of you so much. I tried to do a screen grab of each of you, but it is hard to get you not talking. I just want you all to know how much it meant to me and that I love you so much.

Russ and Carter made this the best birthday in my whole life along with all you friends. This getting old thing is fantastic.


Yeah for 60

For over the last year there have no celebrations. So why would I think things would be any different? Yes, we got our vaccines a while ago, but we have hardly gone back to our old ways. Until today, we had not eaten in a restaurant. We kind of just let life happen in a grey kind of way.

Well the rainbow of color rained down on me for the last two days. Yesterday Carter showed up as a surprise to me for my 60th birthday and our anniversary. Then Russ threw me a surprise birthday dinner at home with some of our dear friends. We had a huge table set up in the big room with everyone spread out. It was so nice to have friends at home again.

Then this morning I had my needlepoint zoom group, which was a lovely way to start my birthday, but those sweet friends kept a big secret from me… a big surprise lunch at the Wadu with so many of my dearest friends. Christy picked me and Carter up for what I thought was just a couple of people for lunch. It was quite a shock when we arrived to see all my friends who I have missed so much.

Lynn and Karen organized it and of course Karen provided the most beautiful center pieces. Leigh came from Charlotte and Jan came from the mountains. I got fabulous garden themed gifts, but the best gift of all was just being with my loving friends and Carter. Kristin made me a garden themed hat which I wore through the whole lunch and am going to be bringing back for the next birthday girl. Thanks to Michelle, Hannah, Amanda, Anne, sara, Stephanie, Shelayne, Kathi, Elizabeth, Kristin, Leigh, Jan, Mary Lloyd, Christy Karen and Lynn.

So far I have to say the 60 is a really good number and I am so thankful for all my wonderful and sneaky friends who totally surprised me. I wondered why no one was talking to me for the last few weeks. Mary Lloyd said she would run by my house and pray not to see me so that she would not blurt out any of the surprises.

On top of all the dear people I have seen in person I have been overwhelmed with love from old friends near and far sending Facebook message, phone calls, emails and mailing cards. Thank you for ending the drought of the pandemic for me. Thank god for the vaccination and all my friends who have gotten it so we could be together. It has been the most wonderful birthday and I still have family dinner with Russ and Carter. I am overwhelmed with love.


Good Thing the House is Clean

When Russ asked me a question about table cloths I should have caught on, but I didn’t. Why would Russ care about where and how many matching table clothes I have. He finally confessed to me that he was having a surprise birthday party for me and needed help setting up the table, but who was coming was a surprise.

Thank goodness I have had a big spring cleaning bug for the last two months since no one has been inside my house for a year. The idea of friends coming over is the best surprise I could ever have.

This morning I got up early to garden so I put off showering yet another few hours. After trimming branches and watering vegetables I came inside to find princess Shay sitting atop the pillows. The doorbell rang and as it was still early on a Sunday I wondered who it could be.

The best surprise ever, CARTER! I had texted with her already this morning asking how she was and that sneaky thing said she was great because she slept late, when she actually was up at 5:30 to go to the airport. I was a mess both literally and figuratively, but so happy for this wonderful surprise.

So the fact that friends are coming for dinner is not a surprise, but who they are still is. Russ has been busy getting ready all day. He thought that washing the cars was something he should do before the party, since the house was already spotless.

I’m glad I cleaned Carter’s bathroom last week. Seems like it is a good lesson to always have a clean house in case someone wants to throw you a surprise party and you don’t want to be embarrassed.


Almost Anniversary

Twenty-nine years ago tonight Russ and I were at our rehearsal dinner. It was at Sequoia in Georgetown with more than a hundred of our friends and family in attendance. My irreverent family told lots of bad, yet not untrue stories, about me. Russ’ Aunt Joe who was in her late seventies at the time sat with her mouth open. How could he be marrying such a wild woman?

Well, Great Aunt Jo was there with her long time, yet publicly undefined partner Aunt Ruth so she could not have thought I was too scandalous. Thankfully she accepted me fully, even after those stories.

Unflappable Russ held up perfectly at the rehearsal dinner. Going with the flow has always been his way. He did not blink when his mother asked him how the money she had given to pay for the dinner had stretched to this big party. He just told her I was excellent at party planning as a caterer. I am glad we never had to go deeper in that conversation.

I am thankful everyday that Russ and I figured out that we were a good fit for each other. I am doubly thankful that he did not let my crazy family scare him off.

The last year of Covid has been actually very fun to get to be home with Russ everyday. Twenty-nine years sounds like a lot, but it feels like a blink of an eye. Happy almost Anniversary Russ Lange. You are the best and I love you.


Lessons Learned Today

So I don’t violate any HIPPA laws I can’t exactly tell you what my day was like, but I can share some major lessons learned.

First, if you are in any medical facility and a medical professional asks you if you have EVER thought about suicide ask a clarifying question before answering. Maybe something like, “Do you mean in the last month, year or really ever?” If you have thought about it in the last month, please tell that professional and get some help.

If it was in the last year, was it just a fleeting moment that was in relation to the fact that you could not find a parking space at Christmas at the mall and after circling over and over again you thought, “I’m going to kill myself.” In that case you don’t need to share that thought with the medical professional.

Then there is the EVER, situation. If the last time you thought about killing yourself was when you were fourteen and you discovered that your boyfriend just kissed another girl and you wanted to die, and now you are on Medicare,well I hope your memory is such that you actually don’t remember that and you forget to tell your medical professional.

The big lesson learned today is you should never say anything flippant about suicide, to anyone ever.

The second thing I learned is if you call your lawyer from the hospital and they come over and represent you in the treatment room everyone does their best work. Also during Covid the one family member rule does not apply to lawyers so there is a little loophole if you want two people to be with you, have one be your lawyer.

The third thing I learned is if you name your business “Modern” that is a commitment you have to make to actually keep it modern. Unless you have a qualifying statement like, “Modern in 1956.”

For the record, everything is fine. No one is in the hospital and everyone is alive. But the Modern thing just isn’t.


Gardening is Good For The Soul

Today I spent a few hours gardening. Nothing hard and not all at once, but it made me so happy. Spring is the most glorious time of the year because of all the miracles that happen.

I scattered a few seeds in the earth five weeks ago and now I have the most beautiful arugula and mesclun greens. I hardly did a thing other than make sure they had consistent water and now I can go out with a pair of scissors and cut the most delicious salad. Three dollars worth of seeds will bring in hundreds of salads.

My twenty-three year old peony’s are plants that gets better and better. Like the Lady Banks rose there was something good in the combination of the right cold, the right warm and good rain that made them better than ever this year. The blooms are just starting to appear, just in time for my birthday. The plants are heavily laden with buds like I have never seen before. Please get yourself a peony and plant it this year. You will enjoy the most beautiful flowers for years to come.

The miracle of growing things make me endlessly happy. It helps to get to spend time outdoors and enjoy the sunshine and soft breezes. Don’t let spring get by without planting something, a tomato, some basil or a geranium. Just plant something. I promise it will bring you joy.


The Year of The Lady Banks

Sometime at least 15 years ago I planted Lady Banks Roses around my front porch and my garage door. Since that planting I have done virtually nothing to help them grow or feed them, quite the contrary. We have to constantly trim these roses or they will take over our house.

The nursery – turned into Russ’ home office- is the window above the garage and sometimes the vines are covering his window all the way to the roof. Normally I keep the roses cut so that cars can easily get in and out of the garage, but the Morris Minor is in the left side and hasn’t needed to leave the garage so I just let the roses take over, at least during flowering season.

As the garage is on the north side of the house it really isn’t the best exposure for the lady banks. Usually we have sparse flowering, but something happened this year. I don’t know if we have the right combination of hot and cold or if our very wet year did this, but the lady banks has never been more spectacular. I just wanted to document what a perfect year looks like so I can compare in years to come.

My inattention to this plant could not be greater so I don’t want to screw it up a new do something for it. I just want to give a shout out to Mother Nature. You did a superior job this year and for that I am appreciative.


Ode to Sophie

In our family there is one member who can be counted on to do more than her fair share, it is Sophie. Sophie is my sister Janet’s partner and the best thing to happen to our family in a long time. Yes, Russ held that spot for a while, but then came Sophie.

Sophie is the ultimate trooper. She came to the farm two weekends and packed up my parents stuff, when other closer relatives did not. Then she came to the apartment this weekend and packed up my parent’s stuff, when others did not. She worked like a dog and never complained.

Today probably took the cake. She and Janet met the two moving trucks which were taking all the furniture from my parent’s seventh floor apartment to either North Carolina or to a storage unit in Maryland. With one small elevator, which got stuck with movers in it for forty five minutes, they moved everything. Because of the elevator situation many things got carried down the stairs, eight flights because they had to go to the basement to get to the loading dock. It took over 12 hours and Sophie was there.

Sophie stayed and worked. It was not her parent’s stuff. She could have opted out on any of these unpaid jobs. She does have her own work to do, but no, she stayed and worked. She is the best. Janet did more than her fair share of all the work. Out of blood relatives Janet has done the most work, but out of all people Sophie has done the same amount of work as Janet.

What would we have done without Sophie? To top It all off she is so much fun to be around and makes the work seem not so bad. All hail to Sophie. I only wish every family had a Sophie, but I can guarantee there is only one and I pray to god everyday she stays in our family. We love you Soph.


China Love is Not a Sin

Loving china was not the sin, but according to my mother-in-law, acting on it was. She told Russ that I had too many china patterns and that could be a reason he could back out of marrying me. Thankfully he did not listen to his mother.

What she did not understand was although there were four different patterns on our wedding registry we were not asking for full sets of each, rather dinner plates from one pattern, salad from another and so forth. I was creating my own complimentary set of patterns. It was a bridge too far for my mother-in-law. Who ever heard of such a thing.

I could not explain to her that my china addiction was only half as bad as my mother’s because then she would use that as yet another reason why Russ should not mix genes with people with such terrible addictions.

Apparently It is no excuse if you are only half as bad as your parent. I had a similar conversation with an early teacher of Carter’s who complained to me about Carter being loud in class. I tried to make the teacher feel grateful by telling her that Carter was only half as loud as me and I am only half as loud as my father. I wanted the teacher to understand the generational progress we were making as a family, but she was unwilling to wait for Carter’s grandchildren to get a quiet student.

As my mother is generously giving her children and grandchild some of her treasures that will not fit in her new house I chose one of her china patterns I have loved since she bought it when I was nine years old. It is an old set of Minton that she bought at an antique store. It is not complete, meaning there are not equal numbers of all items, but it has more different kinds of pieces than I have in any of my other patterns.

Now I have egg cups, and luncheon as well as dinner plates. There are consommé bowls and cream soup bowls and more platters than I could ever use at one party. I spent the better part of today unpacking and washing just half the set. I am going to reorganize my china cabinet to fit this new, much beloved pattern in with my others.

My poor mother-in-law passed away from cancer before our first anniversary. I can only imagine her looking down and shaking her head. What she does not appreciate, which her son does, is my cooking deserves to be eaten off of good china. I make no apologies for my weakness of loving beautiful china. I take great pleasure in feeding other people and the china is part of it.


Good Bye Washington

My parents moved to Washington DC in 1983. For my mother it was perfect, but not right away. She loved living in a semi-southern city, but learning to get around was a struggle at first. When my parents first got there they lived in a corporate apartment while they renovated yet another house. Their apartment was in Crystal city, which my father deemed the Houston of Washington thanks to the lack of zoning. Their apartment looked out on the Potomac which gave them the best view and sound of planes landing at National Airport (way before it was renamed Reagan National.)

The house they were moving to was in Massachusetts heights. In the winter when the leaves were down you could see the navel observatory and the VP residence across a little valley in the back of their house. Despite my parents apartment being right at the fourteenth st. Bridge and just down the road from Memorial bridge, my mother could only find her way into DC by taking the Key Bridge. While renovating the house if she needed to go to the design center, which was on 14th street, my mother would drive all the way up to Key Bridge, cross into Georgetown and then go all the way down to 14th st. It took a while, but eventually, maybe a few years, my mother learned how to navigate the city.

My parents lived many lives in DC. From their first stint they left for a short while for my Dad to live in San Francisco and then Kansas City, where my Mom joined him. Then it was back to DC where they lived in Georgetown. Then they moved to Pawleys Island and London and then Back to DC with this last place they had by the cathedral. Somehow my mother kept coming back to Washington.

But this last time was the hardest because they also lived at the farm and they were getting too old to live in two places at the same when neither place is a vacation area. For my Mom she was not in DC enough to be part of regular clubs or activities she had enjoyed when she lived their full time. She had no garden or outdoor space of her own so the beauty of the farm kept her there more often. Then the driving got harder and harder. Not the same way with not being able to figure out which bridge was best, but the aggressive city driving does not suit older drivers with failing eye sight.

This morning, after two hard days of packing, my mother and I packed the last of our sheets and towels and the mugs we drank from this morning and closed the door on the last place in DC my parents will live. Not having the burden of caring for a second home was freeing for my mother. She was generous with giving my sisters, Carter and me the things we wanted from that home. Simplicity is a welcome state at this point. DC was wonderful to my parents, but it is so much easier to age in North Carolina. Goodbye Washington.